"Planners Library," March 2009
by Harold Henderson
(From the Web site of the American Planners Association, originally posted at http://www.planning.org/planning/2009/mar/library.htm)
News from the left
Sociologists Richard Gendron (Assumption College) and G. William Domhoff (University of California, Santa Cruz) use planning and development as a hook to evaluate four theories of urban power in The Leftmost City: Power and Progressive Politics in Santa Cruz (2009; Westview Press; 229 pp.; $27).
The authors are sympathetic to the progressive coalition that has controlled the city council since 1981, but as far as an outsider can tell they're reasonably objective about it, noting in particular recent tensions between two groups: those who favor development to produce additional tax revenue to help the needy and those who favor little or no development in order to preserve environmental and cultural values.
Against this background, the book outlines and evaluates four established political theories: growth coalition theory, Marxist urban theory, public choice theory, and regime theory. Growth coalition theory -- which views the usual local power structures as "coalitions of land-based interests and associated businesses that profit from the increasingly intensive use of land" -- fares best in making sense of Santa Cruz's recent history.
For those more interested in planning processes than the political context of planning, chapter five, which chronicles the period following the 1989 earthquake, will be of most interest.